Category Archives: Food

Foodstuff Marketing – Part 2

Updated follow-up to Part 1 about cereal games: Over the years I have tweeted and posted multiple complaints about the garbage in food that’s advertised as healthy. Cocoa Krispies box nutrition factsPart 1 originally linked to a Kellogg’s Cereal landing page encouraging activity (no longer available). Homepages for Froot Loops and Apple Jacks had pop-up messages urging kids to get outside and move around. The Frosted Flakes website was a big proponent of outdoor activity and sports participation:

Kelloggs-Frosted-Flakes-cereal-website-Are-You-Up Kelloggs Fruit Loops Get Your Move On

You see the same messaging on tons of food products. Hypocrisy rules grocery shelves. This hackneyed pro-exercise/health stance and the call-outs about vitamins and whole grain on boxes is ridiculous at best and criminal at worst considering the processed ingredients, added and artificial sweeteners, and chemical preservatives that these nutritionally devoid “foods” contain. That cereal nutrition facts have a second column for the addition of dairy milk to make it a “complete breakfast” is a problem.

Cocoa Krispies “Immunity” Cereal – 40% Sugar by Weight + Trans Fats
Cocoa Krispies “Immunity” Cereal – 40% Sugar by Weight + Trans Fats

Breakfast health poser brands like Kellogg’s, General Mills, and Post tout nutrients and a healthy start to the day. Aside from government regulation (see FTC response to the Kellogg’s immunity claim), what would it take on a consumer level to make such brands replace their GMO ingredients, partially hydrogenated oils (see Cocoa Krispies ingredients), and modified corn starch with natural ingredients? You can find organic cereal brands like Lydia’s Organics, Farm to Table, Go Raw, etc. who do this, make better products, and still profit. Just not as much. And unfortunately that’s the deciding factor. But despite media exposés, documentaries and books galore about our food problems, the grocery landscape is wrought with more confusing, misleading messaging than ever.

Eat whatever you want. I’m not here on a granola crusade. Actually, I’m more interested in the larger question of selective consumer awareness and empowerment.

Society has spent decades scapegoating, punishing, and regulating the tobacco industry for its seductive marketing of addictive, cancer-causing products. How have agribusiness and food conglomerates escaped anywhere near the widespread, research-backed, trenchant criticism for the role they play in our nation’s health problems? In 2012, more than one-third of U.S. children and adolescents were overweight or obese (CDC). I barely scratched the surface talking about unhealthy cereal that is marketed as healthy. The convoluted mess that is FDA labeling regulation for terms like natural, organic, free range, etc. creates a false advertising field day.

There’s nothing automatically wrong with selling most unhealthy products as long as the consumer is fairly informed. Tobacco, alcohol, fast food, soda pop, hot dogs at baseball games, sugary bubblegum, you name it – we deserve the right to choose to indulge. But food brands and marketers need to take more responsibility when it comes to product positioning. The misinformation about what’s actually healthy is more expensive than consumers understand.

To wrap up:
Part 1: Good: a return to simplicity and creativity – kids cutting out cardboard shapes (see the Lucky Charms game).

Part 2: Bad: food brands that position themselves with health and physical activity but contain nefarious foodstuff (not food) ingredients while making claims about good nutrition.

What will force change? Maybe consumer awareness is already improving. Social helps. See Bettina Siegel’s petition on change.org which helped to remove pink slime (LFTB from Beef Products Inc.) from school lunches across the country.

Our apples are being jacked.

Lucky Charms: Wireless Power to Fly – Part 1

Lucky Charms was a favorite cereal of my childhood. It’s the less spooky vanilla version of Count Chocula, one of General Mills’s monster-themed breakfast cereals which were first released in 1971 with the strawberry-flavored Franken Berry. Count Chocula is more difficult to find these days, especially outside of Halloween season. As for Lucky Charms, which are in no short supply, the last box of sugared oats and marbits that I saw had a wonderfully simple back-of-the-box game:

Lucky Charms cereal box emilybinder.comThe Power to Fly activity (2011):

Here’s How!
Fold the book at line A to make the launch ramp that will send your star marbit on its way. Flicking your star is allowed to see how many times you can follow Lucky through the cloud.

In this digital age, Lucky the Leprechaun believes he can entertain kids by asking them to cut out a piece of cardboard from a cereal box, fold it, and flick it into the hole in the box. Simplicity: scissors, sticky fingers, and adult supervision = breakfast fun.

To gain the Power to Fly, kids do not need their parents’ permission to access a promotional URL or download an app requiring access to Facebook. They need not dig through the lightly sweetened settled contents for a compact disc which must be inserted into a computer (obsolete but memory lane). All they have to do is cut and flick. That’s so refreshing.  (Note: naturally, luckycharms.com does have an online game.)
To that end, enjoy this Count Chocula commercial from 1980:

The ad depicts the joy that kids experience from the activity of applying fake Count Chocula tattoos on their friends (again, no electricity required). Now that I’ve covered the first point about simple pleasures, in Part 2 I discuss the specious health positioning of major cereals and other food products so that this is not an advertisement for empty calories.

Fun cereal facts:

1) In 1963, microbiologist Pamela Low developed the original flavor for Cap’n Crunch by recalling a recipe of brown sugar and butter that her grandmother Luella Low served over rice at her home in Derry, New Hampshire.

2) Apple Jacks cereal was invented by William Thilly, a member of Delta Upsilon Technology Chapter and now a professor at MIT. It was introduced to the U.S. in 1965 as “Apple O’s.” In 1971 advertisers renamed it “Apple Jacks.”
It is considered acceptable to add an apostrophe to a single letter in the case of “Apple O’s.”

Original 3/22/11 post updated 6/25/14

Serenbe- Buckhead Betty Turns Green

The Nest

The Nest Serenbe

I had my first Serenbe experience last week, attending the opening of a Lew Oliver housing development called The Nest.

The cottages are fully self-sustaining and use solar panels.  The tour we took inside the model Nest reminded me of a prairie cottage with slanted roofs- with more children than bedrooms and I kept thinking about Abraham Lincoln’s childhood shack, but turned modern and green.  The theme kept reappearing- this place aims to depart from society and civilization as we know it; as we suffer it.  Pollution and gluttony and filth of urban life.  Lack of recycling bins.  Etc.  I think it’s all meant to be a giant circle- agricultural revolution –> industrial revolution –> mass commercialization and consumerism –> wealth established by few –> culture dictates the trendiness of (once counter-culture) green living –> the affluent afford to abandon the dirty consumerist city and move to Stepfordbe where eggs are fresh and granite is passe.  The trend is remarkably cyclical…

Stepfordbe

Serenbe road

Chef’s nickname for Serenbe was apt.  Idyllic and pristine, set 25 miles south of Atlanta in a rural area, Serenbe is a sustainable, green community that appears to be like any other small farm town from the outside.  But inside the two square miles, neatly laid roads and brand new buildings with a couple shops, bakeries, and restaurants are populated by some hybrid form of a Lululemon Buckhead Betty turned Berkeley, CA and transplanted into Georgia.  They are thin, wealthy proprietors of upcycled furniture shops featured in Architectural Digest, and clothing/jewelry boutiques, whose 450% markups on Turkish costume jewelry and tattered, mis-sized frocks caused me to actually LOL.  (Note: My uncontrollable spurt of laughter at the $250 price tag on a ring I swear I bought at Claire’s in seventh grade would have been gauche only if said blonde storeowner and her small, dark, frumpy assistant had been fully checked in. Instead, my overt, indelicate reaction practically whizzed over their wined- / pilled-out heads.)  I was overall amused.

For the serious inquiring reader: Here is an urbanexus blog post about Serenbe with more pix and info.

The Hil

The Hil served one of the five best restaurant meals I have ever eaten.  Impeccable service.  Ingredients are local and organic- they even have a small farm and garden outside the place, where I was forced to “pet” (read: gawk/coo over) the picturesque livestock by my animal-loving cohorts.  When a three-inch spider was discovered in my nest (hair on head), and the donkeys, though cute, depressed me at their lack of water or caretakers anywhere to be found, I simply wanted to eat indoors and stop interacting with my dinner, so to speak.

Maybe this return to simpler life is too abrupt.  It is certainly for the elite.  Re: poor city people eat cheap unhealthy food –> obesity, and being green is expensive (at least in Atlanta, we must pay to recycle, only some afford Whole Foods vs. McDonalds).  Except for public transportation vs. driving your own car– this is an inexpensive way to be green, accessible to all, but still stigmatized and arguably culturally humiliating, as Ludacris memorably explains in Crash.  I think everyone in Serenbe drove…

Watch the clip- “You Don’t Like Hockey” –Crash

SOS- Save Our Shores

Today I stumbled onto an Etsy seller, Gypsy Charms Jewelry, via the Greater New Orleans Foundation website.  She has listed an SOS necklace with the proceeds from the sale of this necklace going to The Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund.  It’s a lovely necklace and I applaud this seller and all the other Etsyers supporting the oil spill relief effort.  I was so inspired that I listed my popular Southern Pecan Pralines as another item with proceeds donated to the relief fund.  And then I was feeling gung ho and created a Gulf Oil Spill Relief Treasury.  Check it out! Includes a keychain from a favorite seller, RiskyBeads.

Gulf Oil Spill Relief Treasury by Adore a Jar Bakery
Proceeds from all these handpicked items go to help oil spill relief funds.

IOil Spill Shrimpnstead of Mother Teresacomplaining about the sublime ineptitude of BP and the unfathomable, astronomical damage this spill is causing each day, I will attempt to heed the words of Mother Teresa as per The Secret and the Law of Attraction: “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”  Yes, let’s all try to attract positive energy and not marinate in this catastrophe which affects many things including… (since I must relate my rant to food for this blog) the seafood industry! I don’t want crude in my shrimp gumbo! According to the NY Times Diners Journal blog, many are worried about the havoc on our seafood…